Much to the delight of some readers, I have steered clear of sports for a long time. However, as you know, I cannot let the Hall of Fame vote go without comment (and it is my freakin' fiefdom and I can do what I please with impunity- sorry for the outburst)...
It is well documented that I am a Cardinals fan. One of the happiest days of my baseball life was the day we traded for Mark McGwire. The 70 home run season gave me many nights sitting in front of the television cheering and I was saddened by his injury plagued final seasons and the fact he never reached the 600 home run plateau. Needless to say, his testimony before Congress (a Kangaroo Court called together because of an idiot's book during a war) was disappointing.
While others continue to lie about what happened and others will continue their march towards the Hall with no congressional challenge, McGwire will be punished for his lack of intelligence and candor (he would have punished more for candor). So, while he is a scapegoat driven into the wilderness to join Pete Rose on this day of Baseball Atonement (along with Sosa and Palmeiro), other liars of the era will watch themselves be elected on the First Ballot because they were not power sluggers.
While steroid use still conjures up images of East German power lifters, crazed defensive ends and other freaks of nature; the most common accusations of the past decade have been in the areas of Track and Field and Cycling, too sports know for speed, endurance and svelte frames. Are we dumb enough to believe that power pitchers like Roger Clemons and speedsters like Ricky Henderson left all the juice for the big guys?
Why is it conditioning for these guys but steroids for monsters like Bonds?
Most of the writers voting for the HOF are making arbitrary decisions based upon hearsay and hypothesis. There is nothing wrong with that. However, they must admit it. If we are concerned solely about the "integrity" of the game, then the only choice is that 2 writers made. Send in a blank ballot.
The most intelligent decision is to look at each player on his own merit, taking into consideration the level of competition, the rules in play during the era and the numbers of that era. Since steroids were not banned by baseball at the time, is it officially cheating (I did not ask if it is wrong- of course it is)? If pitchers were using steroids, why are we punishing the hitters only (mark my words, Clemons gets in at 99%)? Is it fair to punish a few people from an era and not the rest of them? While taking what amounted to the 5th Amendment is among the lamest actions McGwire could have taken, should he be punished more than the liars (he would not be convicted in a court of law by his words)?
Interestingly, when I looked at the ballots of the 14 writers from ESPN I understood I was on the right side of the argument (so, take that you baseball legalists). McGwire received only 42% of the ESPN vote (much higher than the total). But, look at the names of those that voted for him.
and Mr. Baseball himself, Peter Gammons
If you follow sportswriting, baseball writing or ESPN, you will notice that 4 of the 5 are considered the top minds regarding baseball. If you listed the Top 10 baseball writers in America, 4 of them would be listed here (maybe even the Top 5).
So, while most of the writers in America did not cast a vote for McGwire and many bloggers have decided he should never set foot in the HOF without paying the price of admission, those that have the greatest breadth of knowledge of the game, the most respect for its history and integrity and no agendas have decided he deserves entrance based upon his merit and the era he played in.
So, berate me all you want for my decision. While I know nothing about baseball and I have a low moral compass, I stand with Sir Peter Gammons and the rest of the greats while you stand with the huddled masses of Pedro Gomez and Jerry Crasnick.
Click here for ESPN's ballots
Caple on the double standard